The French language is being celebrated this month, presenting an opportunity to get to know one of the most beautiful languages in the world that, for an added bonus, can connect you with millions of people all over that world.
Whether they’re French, Cambodian or any of the other nationalities that share this world, the French speakers of Cambodia are part of a 321-million-people-strong global community of people who speak their language. That’s 321 million potentially life-altering encounters, insights, inspirations and connections that are accessible thanks to the extraordinary power of a shared language that can bridge divides across geographies, generations and cultures. This connection between the French speakers of this world will be celebrated this March 20 on International Francophonie Day, a date created by Unesco in 1970 to mark the creation of the agency that would go on to become the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF).
The French language is the fifth most-spoken language in the world, and is the fourth most used on the internet (after English, Spanish and Arabic). It has long had an important place on the global level as a symbol of culture and creativity, and also of democracy and humanism. Speaking at a celebration of this day five years ago, Ms Audrey Azoulay, then Director-General of Unesco, spoke of the French language’s capacity to “unite people, to create spaces of solidarity and mutual understanding, to reflect together on our common future”.
It’s also practical. Among respondents to a survey conducted by the IOF last year, people said that speaking or learning French helped them to get a job, study, find information, conduct research and access other cultures. Speaking another language broadens your horizons by an unimaginable magnitude.
And for those for whom French is a second (or third, fourth, or fifth!) language, the advantages go even deeper. Bilingualism has been associated with a massive range of subtler benefits including greater success in education and work, greater ease when learning further languages, higher average earnings, and it also helps to stave off dementia, which is always nice. It also helps to enrich the speaker’s life through broadened horizons and the capacity to consider things from different perspectives. Bilingual people tend to be more creative and flexible, they can be more open-minded and also find it easier to focus on a variety of tasks at the same time.
And then there is also the opportunity to explore cultures from all over the world that may share common historical experiences. As Madame Azoulay said during her speech, “it is this diversity of destinies, gathered in the language that we share, that we are invited to celebrate”.
For an opportunity to explore more about French language and culture, the Alliance Française in Siem Reap and the French Institute in Phnom Penh. The Alliance Française will be celebrating this week from 18 to 26 March, with a number of events for their students, including karaoke, poetry readings and films. All of these are also open to the public to join in. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out more about events and about signing up for their extremely good value French language courses.
The Institut Français in Phnom Penh will also be holding events this week, and you can find out plenty about the huge range of events and activities they host on their Facebook page.
N’hésitez pas à les joindre. Even if you don’t speak French, there’s so much more in common than you think.